Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Director Hitoshi Matsumoto's Symbol could well be one of the most bizarre, impenetrable films of the year. That doesn't mean it is not funny, intriguing and visually impressive, just don't expect to come out being anything less than baffled. The film appears to be trying to work on some higher metaphorical level where conventional narrative is not needed, and it is up to audiences to carefully unpick what ideas and themes are being offered up without any real guidance.

Matsumoto himself stars in the movie, which jumps between two odd and seemingly unconnected stories. In the first, a seemingly ordinary man (Matsumoto) in polka dot pyjamas, wakes up in a large empty doorless white cell. He doesn't know how he got there, and he soon begins to panic as it becomes clear there is no way to get out. Or is there? Mounted into the walls of the cell are countless small white protruding objects, which actually turn out to be the genitals of angelic cherubs. When he touches the protrusions, thousands of angelic babies fly out of the walls before remerging back into the white paintwork.

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Things soon get even odder. Touching other protruding genitalia elsewhere on the wall causes a series of objects to fly out of several submerged trapdoors. Soon the man has a neat collection of objects including sushi, a giant vase, a rope, and several manga graphic novels. There is also a trigger for the exit door, which frustratingly keeps closing before he can get to it. But can he combine these random pieces of equipment to fashion an escape?

Meanwhile, a Mexican boxing fighter is about to leave his family to take part in a gaudy lucha libre wrestling match. We jump more rapidly between both stories as the man's escape and the wrestler's showdown in the ring both come to a head, before the film moves into its short third act with a very bizarre spiritual/supernatural journey of some kind.

Doubtless the peculiar and absurdist premise will frustrate many viewers, but Symbol is still full of energy and wit, and its intense, colourful visual style is impressive.

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2010
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A man finds himself trapped in a plain white room where strange symbols appear in response to his actions.
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Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Writer: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu

Starring: Hitoshi Matsumoto, David Quintero, Luis Accinelli

Year: 2010

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Japan


Raindance 2010

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